In this age of modern stadiums—now sites of architectural beauty and innovation—we're turning the spotlight to their weirder cousins. From a medieval square to the top of a skyscraper, these are the world's oddest stadiums.
1. Ottmar Hitzfield Stadium, Switzerland
Image via Anthony Cullen
The beautiful game gets a beautiful view at this Swiss stadium. Standing at a proud 2,000 metres above sea level, the Ottmar Hitzfield Stadium is Europe’s highest pitch.
The stadium is carved into a mountainside, so when a ball goes over the net, it’s a long way down to retrieve it.
Grass won’t grow at this altitude, so the stadium has to use artificial turf. Being too high up for cars to reach, both players and audience arrive via cable car instead.
2. The Rock Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Image via MZ Architects
It hasn’t been built yet, but the literal-named Rock Stadium has already won several awards.
This impressive 40,000-seater was carved directly into the side of the Jebel Hafeet mountain range.
It might look more like a Bond villain's lair than a sports ground, but this venue has a green heart, constructed as part of the surrounding environment rather than an interruption to it.
3. Oxford United Stadium
Image via Wiki
A little less glamorous than others on this list, the Kassam Stadium is fascinating none-the-less: it’s the coldest in the league because it has only three stands rather than the standard four.
The stadium was originally planned to feature more seats, but during construction Oxford United were relegated. Talks were held, and a smaller capacity stadium deemed more appropriate.
Image via Action Products
Kassam Stadium is also home to a bronze ox statue, nicknamed Olly, which became an oddity in itself when it was spray painted pink by vandals in January of 2011.
4. Eidi Stadium, Faroe Islands
Image via Flickr
Home to the tiny Faroe Islands National team, this stadium is completely surrounded by water, located between the Norweigan Sea and Lake Nioara Vatn.
The pitch even has a delegate in a boat whose job it is to retrieve all the balls lost in the sea.
5. Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos, Chile
Image via Nosotroshq
While in many regards a standard pitch, Chile’s national stadium caught our attention for its starring role in a 2006 art project.
Artist Sebastián Errázuriz planted a 10 metre high, real magnolia tree right in the centre of the pitch to mark the spot where the dictator Pinochet tortured political prisoners 30 years before.
For one week the ‘decontextualised stadium’ was opened to the public as a park. The exhibition culminated with a cathartic football match played before 15,000 people with the tree still planted in the middle.
6. Piazza del Campo, Siena, Italy
Image via Racing Base
It’s not all about football stadiums. Normally renowned as the beautiful historic centre of Siena, this medieval square becomes unrecognisable twice a year when the Palio di Siena horse race is held around the edges of the piazza.
Only July 2 and August 16, 10 horses and riders assemble, bareback and dressed in appropriate colours, to represent 10 of the 17 city wards. Around 40,000 people attend each race to watch the contest.
The race itself rarely lasts more than 90 seconds. The riders do three laps and it is common for a few to be thrown from their horses during the spectacle.
7. The Float, Marina Bay, Singapore
Image via Fresh Travel
Opened in 2007, The Float is the world’s largest floating stage.
Made entirely of steel, it’s slightly larger than a football pitch and has played host to several sporting events, including the Youth Olympics in 2010 and the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix.
The floating platform sits in Marina Bay which was created as a land reclamation project and faces a 30,000-seat grandstand.
8. Estadio Hernando Siles, Bolivia
Image via Los Estadios
Situated in Bolivia’s capital city, La Paz, this is the world’s highest stadium, sat 11,932 feet above sea level.
In 2007, FIFA granted the venue an exemption from its altitude laws—stating no international game was to be played 3000 metres above sea level—so that they could continue holding world cup matches.
The allegations that Bolivian home teams had an advantage due to the altitude may be well founded. In 2006, 2010 and 2014 world cup qualifying rounds, the team had 10 home wins, eight home draws and no away wins.
9. Gospin Dolac, Croatia
Image via Travel Croatia
With a tiny capacity of just 4,000 spectators, the impressive thing about this small stadium is its close proximity to the edge of a cliff, complete with 500m drop into a lake.
10. The Burj Al Arab Hotel helipad
Image via Amusing Planet
Okay, so not technically a stadium, but certainly an impressive feat.
The Burj Al Arab Hotel’s helipad briefly became the world’s highest tennis court when Roger Federer and Andre Agassi were invited to play a few rounds atop the 1053 foot hotel.
Image via Green Roof
That’s one ball you’re not getting back!
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